"I felt like I'd made a real impact. It's hard to describe. Just in showing people that they still can do what they want to do."
I caught up with Tim Farmer at the studios of Kentucky Educational Television (KET), the station that produces his popular weekly TV series, Kentucky Afield. Farmer, who is host and executive producer of the series, was in the midst of editing the show to air the following Saturday night. Scheduling was tight, because as soon as the program was ready, it was off to Cave Run Lake for three days of muskie fishing. The atmosphere was light and friendly in the editing suite, but it was clear that putting the segments together for the half-hour outdoor sporting series each week was a finely-tuned process. Farmer has been with the series for over three years and recently celebrated his 125th show.
It's an obvious labor of love for Farmer, a Louisville native who shares his experiences traveling through the rivers and woods of Kentucky with his viewers. As he puts it, "I get to hunt and fish and do all the things I love to do on a daily basis . . . and get paid for it!" But it's not all fun and games. Each show takes around 200 staff hours to put together. And there are no reruns for Kentucky Afield. Farmer and crew air new episodes each week, all year. But you won't catch him complaining. "I've got to stay busy," he says. "This type of work is a great outlet for that."
Most viewers are familiar with the fact that Farmer participates in hunting and fishing activities one-handed, after losing the use of his right arm from a motorcycle accident. Extensive nerve damage has rendered the arm virtually useless, Farmer says, adding that he will soon have the arm amputated. "No big deal," he quips. "It doesn't work anyway." Though his show does not focus on Farmer's disability, viewers with various disabilities repeatedly call in to get information and advice on adaptive equipment. As a result of the increasing demand, Farmer recently hosted a workshop titled "Overcoming Physical Barriers with Tim Farmer," at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort, Ken. Over 40 participants from Kentucky and Tennessee learned about techniques and equipment to help them more fully enjoy outdoor recreational pursuits, including: archery, hunting and fishing.
When asked what the highlight of his career is, Farmer immediately names that workshop. "I felt like I'd made a real impact. It's hard to describe. Just in showing people that they still can do what they want to do. Everyone has some reason they aren't doing the things they enjoy. Not just people with disabilities. I'm glad that I could make a difference. Anytime we can get anybody else out there, it's a great thing."
It is apparent, however, that Farmer is not one to rest upon his laurels. Due to the huge response, plans are already underway for a summer workshop and another this winter on hunting. Last November in Paducah, Ken., hunting enthusiasts with mobility impairments went into the woods via ATVs, an event that was so successful Farmer plans to do it again. As is true for most everyone, fancy adaptations aren't needed to meet Farmer's needs. For fishing pole modifications, he uses a fighting belt with attached PVC pipe in which the pole sits. A strap from the pipe around his neck adds stability for those hard fighting fish. Another working device Farmer uses is a bow that he pulls back with his teeth. How well can something like this really work? Well enough to rank Farmer 23rd in the world against non-disabled archers.
Farmer's attitude toward work and play closely mirrors his philosophy on life. "After the accident, I knew it was going to change my life forever. But I also knew that I would adapt and go on and that it would be okay. What are the other choices?"
If you would like information on upcoming workshops conducted by Tim Farmer, call 502/564-4336, and leave a message; Tim will get back to you.